The Gospel Confronts Culture

MEMORY VERSE: “Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.” —Acts 20:24

ACTS 19:18-20, 23-29

THIS lesson is concerned with some of Paul’s experiences in Ephesus, where he met with considerable success in his ministry. Doubtless, as a result of the ministry of the Gospel, there have often been those who were impressed favorably and who have held their convictions more or less to themselves. This was no doubt true in Ephesus, but in addition to this there were “many that believed” who “came, and confessed and showed their deeds.” In other words, these were not ashamed of the Gospel once they embraced it, and were willing to bear the consequences of being a Christian in this city of idolatry.

We read that “many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed.”

This was something that was not allowed to go on unchallenged by the unbelievers. There was a certain man named “Demetrius, a silversmith,” which made silver for Diana. This man, the record states, “brought no small gain unto the craftsmen,” the craftsmen, that is, who were in the business of making idols and items associated with the worship of idols. This man, Demetrius, called together “the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.”

There is no indication here that Demetrius and his fellow companions in business were especially opposed to Paul’s religion as such. It is doubtful if they knew enough about it to express an opinion. All they knew was that it seemed to be interfering with their economic life. Even this doubtless was exaggerated by Demetrius because, knowing the usual result of preaching the Gospel, if Paul had been allowed to continue, the silversmiths of Ephesus would probably not have noticed any decline in their business at all,—at least very little. But fear is a powerful influence in the hearts of men. In this instance it had produced an entirely erroneous conception of what was really taking place.

Diana was the leading goddess, apparently, of the Ephesians, and by acclaiming loyalty to her they were able to arouse the whole city, which became filled with confusion. With Paul at the time were two Macedonian converts, Aristarchus and Gaius. A mob rushed into the theatre, dragging these two Christians with them. Paul would have entered the theatre also, but was restrained.

As the Scriptures further indicate, this excited mob was finally brought under control and dispersed, apparently without any injury occurring to anyone involved—either to the mob or to Paul and his companions. Soon after, Paul left Ephesus.

We may be sure that Paul did not leave the city because of fear as to what might happen to him. He was dedicated to God and his service even though it (and it finally did) cost him his life. We have a very good example of this in our memory verse, which is a statement made by Paul on his way to Jerusalem at a time when the brethren were trying to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem on account of the harm which might come to him from his enemies while there.

Paul asserted that he was willing to die in Jerusalem if that were the Lord’s will. His only concern was in being faithful to the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus to “testify to the grace of God.” He did not count his life dear unto himself. He wanted to finish his course with joy, and that meant he wanted to finish in the service, with that service costing him his life.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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